Pacific Cup 2002 Skipper’s Blog: Our training run for Transpac 2003

Pegasus 77 blasting down the waves

Pegasus 77 blasting down the waves

Competitors: Zephyrus 86, Mari-Cha 147
Designer: Reichel-Pugh 77
Sail number: 50008
Rig: Sloop LOA (ft.): 77
Draft (ft): 12.5 Beam (ft): 15
Hull color: White / Blue
Yacht Club: Waikiki Yacht Club
Designer: Reichel Pugh
Builder: McConaghy, Sydney, Australia
Year launched: 2001

Skipper: Philippe Kahn

Navigator: Ed Adams
Watch Captain 1: Jeff Madrigali
Watch Captain 2: Mark Rudiger
Crew: Kevin Miller, Zan Drejes, Freddy Loof, Richard Clarke, Mike Joubert, Tony Kolb, Dave Morris, Samuel “Shark” Kahn, Sean “Doogie” Couvreub

Tracking Charts:

The moon, the stars and the squalls

Date: Friday, July 19th
Lat: 22 50 North
Lon: 155 49 West
Course over ground: 232 degrees magnetic
Speed over ground: 13 knots

After a long night jibing, the sleepless Jeff will pour as much Tabasco in your breakfast as you want

After a long night jibing, the sleepless Jeff will pour as much Tabasco in your breakfast as you want

Last night was pretty much postcard perfect with the moon coming in and out of squall clouds, the big sky and the big start, 20-knot winds and nice waves. We were on 300-mile lay line coming from the north. We worked hard all night with lots of sail changes. We went back and forth between spinnaker and jib top reaching going through the whole inventory of spinnakers as the angles got tighter. The jib top is exceptionally fast and flexible when tight reaching and Pegasus 77 was nicely planing and skipping waves, all very impressive.

Squall-busting at sunset – In the front of the squall there is lots of wind, but in the back it is very light

Squall-busting at sunset – In the front of the squall there is lots of wind, but in the back it is very light

Where are we in the race?

As I write this report, we are 150 miles from the finish and we expect Zephyrus to finish about 8 hours ahead of us with Mari-Cha 5 hours ahead of us. At this pace, we should do well in corrected time. The whole team is very pleased and excited about our performance. Our goals were to get to Honolulu within less than 12 hours of Zephyrus and we think that we can pull this one off! There is still quite a bit of great sailing in front of us. Our goals seem within reach! Fly Pegasus fly!!!

Rudi,sleeping real hard before the very final stretch

Rudi,sleeping real hard before the very final stretch

100 miles to go!

This is the final 100 miles. We are about 7 hours out, maybe less, maybe more depending on the conditions. We’re stoked. Half of the team is napping for a couple of hours to recover from a very intense night. We made 8 sail-spinnaker changes in 7 hours. And on a boat of the size of Pegasus 77, in the pitch black night, that is a huge effort.

The last 100 nautical miles, 22 30 north, 156 21 west

The last 100 nautical miles, 22 30 north, 156 21 west

The finish line is right by the Kaneohe Bay yacht club, one of the two nicest spots in the islands. (The other one being the Waikiki yacht club). We just had the 49er worlds in Kaneohe Bay. Of course the bay is not deep enough to sail Pegasus 77 directly to the dock, so we need to follow the channel that has been cut in the bay’s coral. Fortunately, we sail Finns and Melges 24s in the bay, so we’re pretty familiar. We know that there will be huge plates of fresh sushi and sliced chilled mangoes waiting for us. That makes us work even harder.

Aloha Pegasus!

The Results:

In corrected time, Pegasus 77 easily scored a clear victory over both Zephyrus 86 and Mari-Cha 147. In fact once all was said and done, Pegasus 77’s elapsed time was only 4 hours longer than Mari-Cha 147 and 7 hours longer than Zephyrus 86. That’s an amazing result given the size differentials between the boats. Pacifc Cup 2002, was a great success and the best preparation for Transpac 2003 where we will be racing evenly matched competitors.

Pegasus 77 can smell the barn!

Pegasus 77 can smell the barn!

 

Pushing real hard in the final stretch.

Pushing real hard in the final stretch.

 

Hanging tough after a tough night

Date: Thursday, July 18th
Lat: 25 31 North
Lon: 151 39 West
Course over ground: 226 degrees magnetic
Speed over ground: 12 knots

Afternoon watch in the trades. From the stern, Ed talking about the weather, Philippe steering, Madro mainsheet, Kevin on standby grinding the mainsheet, Dave trimming the kite, Tony and Shark grinding the kite, Freddy tailing Doogie up the mast.

Afternoon watch in the trades. From the stern, Ed talking about the weather, Philippe steering, Madro mainsheet, Kevin on standby grinding the mainsheet, Dave trimming the kite, Tony and Shark grinding the kite, Freddy tailing Doogie up the mast.

In sail boat racing there is a factor that nobody controls: The weather. No matter how good and prepared you are, no matter how much technology you use, you can hardly go wrong if the weather cooperates with your plans. However if the weather is not on your side, all your plans and a lot of your gains may evaporate quickly.

Last night was tough. Not tough because of windy or physically taxing conditions, but tough because we got stuck in the back of a squall line and we found ourselves very close to coming to a dead stop. And things get tough because when you are only doing a few knots of boat speed, you think about your competitors gaining 10 miles for every hour. This situation happened for several hours last night. This was very frustrating because there was nothing that we could do. Yes, you could argue that a portion of this line of squalls could be seen on the satellite pictures that we receive periodically every day. However, they didn’t look significant to us on the satellite pictures. That was our bad and their gains.

At daybreak, the team was bruised. All had been going so well until….. It took half an hour of mumbling and questioning. Then everyone was ready to put that extra effort that could possibly make up for our loss to these squalls. The question on our minds: Did this just happen to us or did it also affect Zephyrus and Mari-Cha? We’d have to wait for roll call. Patience.

An incomplete roll-call

Mari-Cha put 23 miles of distance on us in the last 24 hours, shaving significantly the gains that we had made on her. But Zephyrus did not answer the radio call. Several of us tried to raise them on VHF without success. Three hours later, still silence. Where are they, how did they do? We know that they have had some issues since the start, including a declaration to the race committee that they had to turn the engine on a second day (at this point nobody still knows why?) We all hope that all is well with Zephyrus and that it’s just a hardware problem. Of course, on handicap we are still significantly ahead, but somehow, we are still trying to defy gravity on Pegasus 77 and attempt the impossible: To beat Zephyrus and Mari-Cha to Honolulu boat for boat. Unfortunately gravity could be pulling us back to planet earth!

Back in the Easterly trades

We are now back in the easterly trades, although in fairly light winds. But Pegasus 77 does 12 knots of boat speed in 12 knots of wind, and we are pointed right at Honolulu which is on a bearing of 224 degrees magnetic at a distance of 414 nautical miles.

Swimming in more than 10,000 ft deep water

We played with squalls all day. We played and lost the game several times. Around noon we were becalmed behind a huge squall. The knot-meter was reading triple zeroes. So I did something silly: I jumped in to take a swim around Pegasus 77. Beautiful, pristine deep blue rays plunging to infinitum it seems. Swimming knowing that there is more than 10,000 feet of water under with endless types of creatures living from the surface to the abyss. What a feeling…. We saw the puff coming and there was a significant scramble to get back on the boat: Two minutes later it was blowing 18 knots. But we were becalmed for an hour. Tough sailing. Gravity pulling us back to planet earth. Now we have to be significantly behind, boat for boat. Bad luck, but an uplifting personal experience. I have been across the Pacific five times now and three times I got to experience swimming in deep water. Priceless.

Late afternoon in the trades

We are now experiencing perfect trade wind sailing conditions with 18 knot north-easterly winds. We are pointed right to Kaneohe Bay

Flying Fish

Date: Thursday, July 18th
Lat: 26 38 North
Lon: 149 37 West
Course over ground: 220 degrees magnetic
Speed over ground: 15 knots

At sunset, we jibed on what could be a 500 lay line to Honolulu. Now its mostly port jibe. Unfortunately, it’s pretty light, with winds between 16 and 19 knots most of the time. We were hoping for 25+ trades closer to the islands as we believe that we have an advantage in heavier surfing conditions. This is probably going to make it very tough to beat boat for boat Zephyrus 86. Nevertheless, we sure are going to try very hard until we cross the finish line. There are about 36 hours to go and they are going to be very intense.

A picture is worth 1000 words and a picture with words is worth 1000 pictures!

On-board I am very busy, steering Pegasus 8 to 10 hours a day, trimming sails sleeping a bit and writing the “Skipper’s Log” a and taking most of the PictureMails on this site and then getting it all on the Pegasus Racing website using LightSurf technology (www.lightsurf.com ) Its all outgoing communications. That is until today.

As you may know, several wireless carriers around the world will be deploying the LightSurf PictureMail infrastructure under their own brand throughout the next year. In particular, Sprint will be the first fully functional system in North America and possibly the most powerful one in the world. Of course, we are testing and using the system ourselves until it is deployed widely to consumers. In particular, my partner (and spouse) Sonia Lee and our daughter 5 year old daughter Sophie have been playing extensively with the system. I had a wonderful moment this evening when I found my first wireless PictureMail. It was really nice and brought up lots of emotions.

This was indeed a time when a picture with words is worth one million words!

This was indeed a time when a picture with words is worth one million words!

Sophie in the Ocean

Yuki

Jibing all night

Date: Wednesday, July 17th
Lat: 26 45 North
Lon: 146 08 West
Course over ground: 256 degrees magnetic
Speed over ground: 15 knots

Flying over the waves, down the North Pacific Trades.

Flying over the waves, down the North Pacific Trades.

All night we jibed on every shift. This was a pitch-dark night as the moon set early. We executed each jibe like clockworks. Wind ranged from 18 to 26 knots. Jibing Pegasus 77 is a challenging process because our pole is excessively long to make it through the forestay triangle. So the first step is to roll the staysail, transfer the spinnaker tack to the bow, slide the 42 ft pole on the deck. Then pick a wave, start surfing, jibe the kite outside of the shrouds, then set the pole on the other board and transfer back and reset the staysail. We are getting fast at the whole cycle and can complete the jibe end-to-end in the dark in less than 7 minutes. By jibing all night, we were able to make little gains and more importantly avoid being pegged against the course lay lines. At 9 am, it was time to see what our competitors had been up to all day yesterday and all night. I’m still seeing waves when I take a nap as I steered Pegasus 77 for 9 hours in the last 24 hours. That makes for deep sleep amid the rumbling of grinders, winches as we surf down the huge swells. No need for earplugs.

A pleasant surprise

First, we noticed that Zephyrus kept on going and spent at least 90% of their time on starboard jibe. By the time of the position report, they were on the 75-degree lay line to the finish. They are going to have to jibe soon. However, right now for us the wind direction is in the low 50s. In addition, if so, they will lose most of the leverage that they had by being North on the right hand wind shift. If they keep on going they will be over standing, which means that they would start sailing extra distance to the mark. By contrast, Pegasus 77 is much more centered on the racecourse and we can continue playing shifts all the way to Honolulu while staying south where we believe that we will continue seeing more pressure. Zephyrus 86 is still ahead of Pegasus 77 by 30 miles after 1350 miles racing on the open ocean. That is about 2 hours ahead after 4.5 days of sailing. That is it. Would we exchange positions with them? Probably because they are still 30 miles ahead. However, we could not have gotten in that position in the first place because of their waterline advantage in the heavy reaching part of the race and we also probably don’t want to be sailing in the same waters as Zephyrus 86 unless its blowing over 30 knots. So we played the cards that were were dealt in the best possible way so far and we are in many ways continuing to defy gravity. As for Mari-Cha, we gained 10 miles on them and we are definitely gaining by jibing on the shifts. They are not nimble enough to take advantage of the unusual shifty conditions that we are seeing on the great Pacific Ocean this year. Today, Pegasus 77 lived to fight another day and we are all working hard at brewing some more Pegasus Magic. It is a drag race to Honolulu!

First Tropicbird

Albatross with their huge wingspan and gliding abilities can just keep on going forever and ever. Not so the “Tropicbird”. This smaller seabird needs to continuously flap its wings or risk falling out of the sky. This is now my 5th trans-Pacific race and every time, right half way between San Francisco and Honolulu, the first Tropic bird appears out of nowhere and circles our mast for 15 minutes, quaking along, getting everyone’s attention. Then, as suddenly, the Tropicbird just disappears and remains the subject of conversations for the next several hours. This is one tough of a clever little bird with endless endurance, a quick little bird that would not let us take a picture of him. Very cool.

 

Can the Magic continue?

Date:Tuesday, July 16th
Lat: 28 02 North
Lon: 140 58 West
Course over ground: 226 degrees magnetic
Speed over ground: 14 knots

Zan and Ed brewing some Pegasus magic

Zan and Ed brewing some Pegasus magic

Mike doing a rig check

Mike doing a rig check

 

We think not. However, we still feel like we are defying gravity: We again have covered more miles and gained distance on both Mari-Cha and Zephyrus, for the third consecutive day. We have accomplished this despite an unfavorable wind shift to the right. Here are the numbers:

Date: 7-16

Boat Run/Course
Pegasus 340nm/247
Mari-Cha 329nm/247
Zephyrus 306nm/235

Ok, so what do the numbers say? First the numbers for Zephyrus are obviously deceiving because the jibed at us. Therefore, our calculations show that they probably ran 330 miles. In other words, again Pegasus sailed more miles than its much larger favored competitors did. That is about ½-knot average speed an hour more. That is quite a bit of magic, in fact to do it so consistently is like defying gravity. The boats performance polars make us come to the conclusion that we have been sailing smarter and probably in more pressure. So obviously, we do not want to be sailing in the same waters as they are as they will grind us down in a drag race. That is what the theory says. There are many discussions on board as to what we can do to make the magic continue. It is exciting.

Flying Fish

We saw our first flying fish today. Tobiko is Shark’s favorite order at the Sushi bar, so the question was: “How can we catch a pregnant female?” And the answer came back unanimously by all of us that have been around flying fish before: “Don’t because if you touch a flying fish, that smell will stay with you for at least three days and you’ll have to sleep on deck because we won’t let you down below!”

The furthest point from land on planet earth!

At Noon, we reached mid-point: one thousand nautical miles from any land, including San Francisco and Honolulu. Take a circle of 2000 nautical miles of diameter and there is no land anywhere inside the circle. Anywhere else on planet earth and there would be some land in the circle. There was a fly down below. An annoying fly. Little did it know that it was probably the most isolated fly on the planet? Then we came to think that this fly came with us and should not make it to Honolulu because that is how new foreign species and mutations are introduced. This must happen every day with jet liners and not just flies. We got the fly.

Although our distance is half way to Hawaii, from a time perspective if the trade winds cooperate, we are more than the half way to Honolulu: We should be crossing the finish line sometime Friday. In theory, Zephyrus and Mari-Cha should get there about 18 to 24 hours before us. Nevertheless, we are working on some more Pegasus magic!

Sailing in the trades with staysail, flying the big kite. PictureMail by Mike, hanging from the pole.

Sailing in the trades with staysail, flying the big kite. PictureMail by Mike, hanging from the pole.

Pegasus 77 shows great numbers

Date: Monday, July 15th
Lat: 29 05 North
Lon: 135 13 West
Course over ground: 232 degrees magnetic
Speed over ground: 17 knots

At night there are sparkles everywhere, like magic. The first explorers thought that there was gold in the Pacific Ocean

At night there are sparkles everywhere, like magic. The first explorers thought that there was gold in the Pacific Ocean

Because I do the PictureMails, the only way that I get in the pictures is when I eat

Because I do the PictureMails, the only way that I get in the pictures is when I eat

 

The plan to accomplish the impossible, for David to beat Goliath in other words, for Pegasus 77 to beat Zephyrus and Mari-Cha boat for boat seems now remotely possible. That is because we did well in the last 24 hours. The numbers speak for themselves:

Date: 7-14

Boat Run/Course
Pegasus 367nm/198
Mari-Cha 365nm/214
Zephyrus 364nm/213

Date: 7-15

Boat Run/Course
Pegasus 353nm/231
Mari-Cha 332nm/231
Zephyrus 344nm/232

Yesterday we were able to travel more distance and dive south and today we essentially ran parallel tracks at a 231 bearing, 9 miles more than Zephyrus, 21 miles more than Mari-Cha. Now here it is plain and simple: The wind is now at 23 degrees and with this wind direction, we are ahead of our two competitors. But we know that the wind is going to shift right all the way to become easterly trade winds. If this happens before we gain more bearing on Zephyrus and Mari-cha, they will be able to jibe and find themselves ahead of us. But if this shift occurs after we gain some more bearing on them, then we’re ahead.

We must now be very patient and continue to work hard with discipline. We are going to be waiting anxiously for each roll call. Of course, we know that the 30 sailors on-board Mari-Cha and the 20 sailors on-board Zephyrus will be at least as anxious as we are: They were expecting a two horse race and now they have to deal with a flying horse. Fly Pegasus fly!

Pegasus is in your cool shades Richard!

Pegasus is in your cool shades Richard!

Shark Attack!

Shark Attack!

 

At 1AM, we saw some big right shifts. All the way to 60 degrees. That is challenging as Zephyrus and Mari-Cha probably jibed down at us. We are sailing fast and the conditions are perfect: The ocean water temperature is now 68 degrees; although it is overcast, we can catch glimpses of the almost full moon as it sets early in the night, gently sinking on the horizon. This is a beautiful night of sailing. The whole team is pushing hard. I drove the boat for 10 hours today in increments of 1 and 2 hours. Every time that I get into my bunk to catch an hour or two of sleep, I see waves going by. It is like becoming part of the great Pacific Ocean. Quite a privilege.

A Satisfying Roll Call

Date: Sunday, July 14th
Lat: 31 09 North
Lon: 129 07 West
Course over ground: 214 degrees magnetic
Speed over ground: 17 knots

Freddy driving, Shark trimming main, Tony and Doogie grinding the kite.

Freddy driving, Shark trimming main, Tony and Doogie grinding the kite.

 

Racing sailboats that are as different in size and potential as Pegasus 77 from the huge Zephyrus or the behemoth Mari-Cha is like is radically different than racing fundamentally similar boats. On paper, Pegasus does not stand a chance. Last year we were match-racing Chance and Pyewacket to Honolulu and the three boats were identical. Our strategy was simply to not let anyone build leverage and out-sail them when the conditions were difficult. In the end, we got to Honolulu 1 hour before Pyewacket and 2 hours before Chance. In what turned out to be one of the most competitive Transpac races ever. (See the Transpac 2001 skipper’s log)

This year is a very different story: If we follow Mari-Cha and Zephyrus to Honolulu, we will just follow them to Honolulu and most of the time, they will pick the conditions that they want to sail in. Where we know that waterline matters a lot is power reaching. So the key was to get to the left of them enough that we’d have leverage when it matters. Yesterday at roll call, we reported our position north of both Zephyrus and Mari-Cha. Today, we have changed battlefields. We are on the chart 50 miles further from Honolulu, but there is much more than meets the eye. Read on…..

In the last 24 hours, we actually did more Miles than both of them, 367 miles to be precise (I knew that those surfing contests would make us fast!) And what did we use those extra miles for? Building leverage. We are now a whopping 90 miles South of Zephyrus and Mari-Cha who are in sight of each other. Yesterday we faked them right and kept them power reaching and got to their left. We got pretty excited when we heard our mutual positions. Is this a sure bet? Certainly not. But if we don’t take some calculated chances, why race? So we are now 50 miles behind Mari-Cha and Zephyrus, but 90 miles south of them. Nice!

With all the veteran Volvo team members who just spent the last year sailing 30,000 miles in super tough conditions, one thing is very clear: They are very, very happy. This is why:

The top 10 Reasons why you know that you’re not on the Volvo Race:

1. There is always food left over
2. People apologize when they wake you up for a watch change
3. You get upset because your opposite watch hasn’t fluffed your pillow
4. You get upset because the chef put too much cilantro in your Indian-style chicken with fresh vegetables and couscous
5. You’re not surprised when you wake-up and there is a 12 year old at the wheel putting up just as good numbers as the rest of the drivers
6. The tough choice of the day is picking your favorite flavor of Gatorade
7. You can do a sail change without getting your feet wet
8. No stacking!
9. Personal towels and bunk cushions are not considered excessive
10. You are sailing to Hawaii!